5 Things You Need to Know About Child Abuse
1. Child Abuse Isn’t Just Hitting
Child abuse is any treatment that isn’t in the best interest (either physically, psychologically or emotionally) of the child. This includes any physical harm, sexual act, neglect, verbal degradation or emotional or psychological harm. Abuse can be subjective per child; however, there are some definite rules about behavior that most people would find abusive or harmful, such as sexual abuse, physical harm and neglect. Any act that doesn’t allow a child to learn and grow in a physically and emotionally safe environment constitutes abuse and should be taken very seriously.
2. Doing Nothing Can Be Abusive
Neglect is a common type of abuse; you should treat it just as seriously as any form of physical abuse. Neglect can take many forms, such as failure to provide adequate nutrition, reckless disregard for a child’s safety, failure to provide adequate health care, and abandonment. Educational or developmental neglect include not educating a child (in the United States, failure to enroll a child in school is neglect) and refusal to provide educational needs or tutelage to a child in need. Emotional and psychological neglect can take many forms, but the most common are inadequate nurturing, exposure to spousal or other family abuse, failure to intervene in negative behavior of a child, and the allowance of illegal drug use, inappropriate sexual activity or alcohol abuse.
3. Signs of Abuse Are Often Obvious
Abused children have a typical manner of development that gives a clear indication of a problem. Physically abused children may have physical marks or bruises that the child can’t explain, poor development or social functioning, weight abnormalities without a medical reason, phobias, night-terrors, behavioral problems and developmental issues. Sexually abused children typically have an inappropriate interest in sexual activity, seductive behavior, an unwillingness to undress around others, aggression or fear of certain people or family members.
4. Report Child Abuse–Or You’re Part of the Problem
Being aware of or suspecting child abuse and not intervening is criminal behavior. It’s the responsibility of every individual in the community to ensure the safe and healthy development of children. When you suspect child abuse, contact Child Protective Services to conduct a thorough investigation. Introduction of the child to a mental health professional can help determine the scope and severity of suspected abuse; it’s a big step in helping stop the abusive behavior and healing the child.
5. Effects of Child Abuse Last Longer Than a Bruise
Child abuse can cause serious long-term effects to an child’s cognitive and emotional functioning. You can trace everything from drug abuse and impaired social functioning to depression, schizophrenia and even criminal behavior to a history of child abuse. Recognizing the effects of child abuse on not only the child but also the larger community is important because it affects us all. Giving abused children a voice is necessary and vital.